Band Training Studies - 1. Attack

No Matter how often one hears it, the sound of a band producing a full, well-balanced chord, with unanimity of attack and style, is always a satisfying experience.  Crisp attack 'tunes' has been described by the music critic as one of the brass band's 'particular virtues', and it is well worth special study, for at its best it will not happen merely by chance, but as the outcome of complete understanding between conductor and performers.

First, then, the conductor.  He must know exactly the kind of effect he wished to evoke.  In the privacy of his own study he should endeavour to hear mentally the particular sound produced by a knife-like fortissimo attack; the effect of a pianissimo suddenly materialising out of nothing; or anything in between these extremes.

(It should here be said that all  his work should be thus commenced privately.  At first he may not be able to 'tune in' as it were, but by peresevering he will gain skill in thus anticipating the problems with which he will have to deal in the band room.  At first, too, the reality may be quite different from what he had imagined - but this again will be adjusted by experience.)

Having thus obtained an idea of the kind of attack he wishes to evoke, he must now consider his baton technique.  For the forceful, accented attack he will find that short, 'pointed' movements are required; whilst something a little more flowing may help the bandsmen to realize a piano attack.  In this matter, also, his preliminary beat is important, and the bandsmen should be taught to take their cue from this.  It is conditioned by the speed and style of the music to be played, and all this should be borne in mind by the conductor.  Very long movements are to be avoided.

The bandsman's part is to know exactly what he is doing with his tongue, and breath-control.  In so many cases the men have little idea of what is happening, yet often produce quite good results in spite of themselves - by some kind of mass-hypnotism, perhaps?

The conductor will rarely have time to 'vet' each man personally in this matter; but having managed to obtain the desired effect he might well say to them all, 'now do that again, and take note of what is happening with your tongue and breath.  Remember the feel of it, the sound of it.  That is what I want always when this effect is required.'  He will thus make the players more conscious of their responsibility.

Not only must the first chord be attacked intelligently, but the second and third and fourth, and so on.  Explain this to the players, and then consider that this brings up the matter of 'release' also...

Printed with kind permission from The British Bandsman.

Posted on October 11, 2011 .